Angela Copock. Photo credit: Rayno Victo
The moment that plane sped down the runway, I started shaking with excitement. I had waited two years for this moment, and now I was about to fulfill my dream of flying a plane. As I soared into the air, I felt free—like I could go anywhere. Even four months later, thinking about this moment makes me happy. But why did this flight bring me such happiness?
Throughout the documentary, “Happy,” directed by Academy Award nominee Roko Belic, psychologists hypothesized that fifty percent of happiness comes from a person’s personality and ten percent of happiness comes from life circumstances—like income, age and hardship.
Life circumstances only seem to affect people’s happiness when their basic needs are met. Horrible things can happen to a person but they can still be happy. I didn’t think this was possible until I experienced real hardship.
On January 15, 2020—a little over a year before my Discovery Flight, I fell on the back of my head during a gymnastics performance, resulting in nerve damage which affected my spinal and cranial nerves. This caused me to have trouble reading, walking, and other actions. I lost the ability to do things that made me happy. Although it was difficult, I never gave up hope that I would fully recover and fulfill my dream of flying a plane.
When psychologists analyze people who remain happy even through hardship, they don’t say these people don’t react negatively to hardship. Instead, psychologists state that these people adapt quicker to hardship than others. What allows these people to adapt so quickly is the forty percent of happiness that comes from intentional activity.
According to the essay, “The Three Equations for a Happy Life, Even During a Pandemic” by Arthur C. Brooks, Harvard professor and social scientist, one of the best intentional activities for impacting your happiness is having faith. I didn’t truly understand this concept until my accident. There were days when there was no happiness in sight: the pain, darkness and misery seemed to close in around me. In those moments, my faith was the only thing keeping me going. I am a practicing Seventh-day Adventist, meaning my religion teaches that all things—good and bad—happen for a reason and that, no matter what the world throws at me, Jesus will carry and protect me. Faith allowed me to see that I wasn’t alone, and that gave me hope for the future.
Before my accident, I thought pain and trials shatter happiness. Now I see that pain and trials, when seen through a perspective of faith, can add value to happiness. My accident made me truly appreciate the experience I was having during that flight, making me feel normal and free—compared to being physically and mentally inhibited because of my injury. This one memory has permeated my whole being, helping me to be the happiest I have ever been in my life.
Angela Copock is an Andrews University freshman pursuing dual degrees in pre-med and Aviation